Despite everything you have heard, what is Venice known for?
Venice is a city like no other, and one of those few places to visit at least once in your life.
The city of water and bridges is home to unique artistic and architectural gems that the world envies, and the reason thousands of visitors visit daily.
Venice’s indescribable charm lies in its sunsets over the Grand Canal, the vibrant food scene, the colourful Carnival masks, it’s lively ‘calli’ and piazzas.
What is Venice Known For?
I have just mentioned a few of the things that make Venice such a go-to destination in Europe and in the whole world.
However, with this article, we’re going to learn more about what is Venice known for and why it’s a city worth visiting.
If the main road of New York is the Fifth Avenue, likewise Venice has the Grand Canal with the only difference that this ‘road’ is entirely on water!
The river’s waters are bustling with water buses and gondolas at every hour of the day and one of the first famous things Venice is known for is the Grand Canal, known as the ‘canalazzo’ by Venetian people.
This canal divides the historical city centre into two parts and has always played a vital role for the city as main commercial waterway.
Even the construction of palaces on its banks had to adapt to the route that the main waterway takes.
The Grand Canal extends for about four kilometres and has the shape of an inverted ‘S’.
Flanked along its entire length by magnificent buildings from the 12th to the 18th century, the canal is a testimony of the Serenissima Republic’s wealth, made of the canal, one of the symbols of the city.
Every year, the Venetians revive centuries-old traditions of the Serenissima times, such as the Historical Regatta.
St Mark’s Square
St. Mark’s Square (in Italian Piazza San Marco) is located in the heart of Venice, and it’s one of the most important Italian monumental squares.
This is a must see place and is the largest and most famous square in Venice renowned throughout the world for its beauty and architectural integrity.
Its main body has a trapezoidal shape, which is 180 meters long and 70 meters wide. This is the only square in Venice, since the city has only ‘campi’, small squares and a bus area called Piazzale Roma. St. Mark’s Square is also known as “la Piazza” or “the drawing room of Europe”.
Did you know that St. Mark’s Square is the lowest area of Venice?
This also means that this is the first area subject to flooding during the high tide. When it happens, the municipality of Venice installs walkways, to allow the regular transit of pedestrians.
To understand the richness and uniqueness of the Venetian cuisine, we need to take a step back in time, during the Serenissima Republic days.
The city of Venice was one of the first to deal with the cuisines of the world, welcoming secrets and flavours from the East and West, giving birth to the first fusion dishes of the time. See these must eat foods in Venice for inspiration.
From the East, the Venetians merchant carried spices, raisins, black pepper, ginger and the expensive rice, initially sold in grains and counted one by one!
From the north, Piero Querini after a terrible shipwreck introduced the king of Venetian tables: the cod.
Today, you can eat traditional Venetian dishes inside ‘osterie’ and ‘trattorie’, local small restaurants scattered all around Venice, where the culinary secret knowledge is still jealously kept.
Don’t forget to try the ‘cicchetti’, one of the most popular Venetian things, a local version of Spanish tapas to get together with the popular Aperol Spritz.
Why not join this food and wine tour with Cicchetti tasting to learn everything about Cicchetti culture?
Venice Film Festival
The Venice International Film Festival is a film festival that takes place annually in Venice, usually between the end of August and the beginning of September.
The prestigious festival is held in the historic Palazzo del Cinema on the Marconi seafront, at the Lido of Venice as well as in other places of the Venetian lagoon.
After the Oscar, this is the oldest cinematographic event in the world: the first edition was held between the 6th and 21st of August 1932.
The main prize is the Golden Lion, which gets its name from the symbol of the city (St. Mark’s lion). This recognition is considered one of the most important film critic awards.
The gondola is one of the most famous things about Venice. It is the symbol of the city, and you can spot gondolas in big and smaller canals of the city.
During your first stay in Venice, you can’t miss a gondola ride. I recommend sharing, as the cost of it is 90 euros for half an hour during the daytime, and it gets more expensive after 7 pm.
You can also plan beforehand your gondola ride, by joining this romantic waterways gondola ride of Venice. A live guide will share with you stories and secrets of the fascinating palaces around you.”
The elegant and sinuous black boats famous all over the world are the oldest means of transport of Venice and its lagoon. When riding a gondola, take a look at the iron on the bow.
Its function is balancing the weight of the gondolier, but even its shape encloses different Venetian symbols:
What’s the favourite subject of painters and photographers coming from all over the world to capture the beauty of Venice?
The answer is: it’s wonderful bridges!
The city counts at least 436 bridges. The reason why there are so many of them is that the historical city centre of Venice was built on more than one hundred small islands separated by canals and connected one to the other with bridges.
Some things Venice is known for are the four bridges that join the two sides of the Grand Canal: Rialto Bridge, Accademia Bridge, Ponte degli Scalzi and Ponte della Costituzione also known as ponte di Calatrava.
As the majority of the most famous bridges in Venice have their own unique story, I can’t forget to mention another bridge with a despairing tale to tell, that attracts visitors all year round, which is: the Bridge of Sighs in St. Mark’s Square.
La Fenice Theatre is one of the most important opera theatres in the world. It’s not far from St. Mark’s Square and Basilica and many opera and classical music concerts take place here all year round.
The theatre has been reconstructed twice since 1792 due to some fires that happened over the years. The opera house has hosted the premières of countless masterpieces of artists such as Giuseppe Verdi, Gioacchino Rossini and Vincenzo Bellini.
When visiting La Fenice Theatre is a Neoclassical palace decorated internally by stuccoes and gilded reliefs and painted medallions. The theatre’s capacity is about 1500 spectators.
Burano is one of the islands of the Venetian lagoon and one of the top tourist destinations in Venice. Burano is famous for its lace and colourful houses.
It’s also home to great artists such as Baldassare Galuppi, Remigio Barbaro and Pino Donaggio, and where the buranella cooking style for risotto and pasta was born.
Not only is it one of the popular day trips from Venice by the way, many international magazines consider Burano as one of the most colourful cities in the world.
The island is popular for its rainbow coloured-houses, the old crooked bell tower, and the tranquillity you can enjoy here, in particular, if comparing it to the effervescence of St. Mark’s Square or Rialto Bridge in Venice!
Take time to marvel at the old ladies embroidering the original Burano lace with their bobbins, and at the fishermen hoisting fresh fish just caught from their typical boats.
La Serenissima (The Most Serene) is the nickname that has been given to the city during the Republic of Venice. The city was a maritime republic with economical and political power over the Mediterranean Sea. It existed for 1100 years from the year 697 to 1797 a.D.
Its wealth and prosperity endured thanks to the trading relationships with different nations around the Mediterranean basin but also in the Middle and Far East. A reason why it’s called ‘serene’, it’s because Venice managed to use diplomacy and peaceful strategies to deal with enemies over the years, avoiding conflicts.
The Venice Carnival is one thing you should experience at least once in your life! This is one of the most famous Carnivals in the world, popular as much as the Carnival of Rio in Brasil and Mardi Gras in New Orleans, US.
During the two weeks of celebrations, the streets and squares of the city are flooded with people dressing up in masks and costumes.
The Carnival of Venice’s origin is quite old and the first time was mentioned on a doge’s document in the year 1094!
The Carnival was born by the will of Venetian oligarchies and related to the need of the Serenissima Republic, to allow all citizens of Venice, especially the poorest social classes, to live a period of time dedicated entirely to having fun and celebrating.
The use of the masks was introduced to suppress all social differences existing between rich and poor people and guarantee that everyone was treated as all the same, at least for the duration of the event.
The narrow streets of Venice are called, in Venetian dialect, ‘calli’.
The Venetian calli are encased between two continuous rows of buildings, normally used as a dwelling. Frequently, shops and workshops are based on the ground floor.
Similar to the calli, there are also streets that flank the canals called ‘fondamenta’. The term calle derives from the Latin ‘callis’ which means ‘path’. A calle can have different dimensions: a small one is called ‘calletta’ and a wide one ‘calle larga’.
Must sees in Venice are the narrowest calli that are (from the widest to the narrowest): Ramo de Ca’ Zusto (67 cm), Calle Stretta (65 cm), Calle della Refineria (59 cm), Calesela de l’Ochio Grosso (58 cm) and Calle Varisco (53 cm) that holds the distinction of the narrowest street in Venice!
Venice is also known for being the city where the writer, merchant, and traveller Marco Polo was born and died.
He wrote about his travels to the Far East in the book called ‘Il Milione‘, a geographical encyclopedia that brings together essential knowledge about Asia, for the first time in Europe, at the end of the 13th century.
Marco Polo was a member of the Venetian participate who travelled with his father Niccolò and uncle Matteo through Asia along the Silk Road to China.
He was also counsellor and ambassador of the Mongol Gran Khan Kublai around the year 1295.
Even though he wasn’t the first European to get to the Far East and reach China, he was the first one that accurately reported his travels and inspired other European explorers such as Christopher Columbus to discover new places of the unknown world.
Museums and art galleries can be considered real tourist destinations in Venice and there are more than 40 all around the city, open to the public.
The Doge’s Palace is part of the museum network managed by the Venice Civic Museums Foundation and the other 10 museums are part of it.
This means that you can visit all of them by purchasing a ticket that cost far less than getting a single ticket for each one.
In Venice there are also state museums and privately owned museums managed by foundations, religious bodies and associations. This impressive number of museums is an expression of the wealth of the city and its leading cultural role.
Some of the must-see museums of Venice are: Galleria dell’Accademia, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, and the Correr Museum.
Don’t forget the Giardini della Biennale, a green area in the Castello neighbourhood where the prestigious art and architecture Biennale’s pavilions are located.
The Murano Glass is a traditional glassmaking process that originates on the island of Murano. This history starts from when the Venetian trading routes to the East brought the glass back to the island’s main product.
In the Middle Ages, the Venetian glassmakers began to practice this art by using sodium glass like the Oriental people were used to.
The combination of a glass composition suitable for hot processing and the aesthetic ability of Venetians to take advantage of the malleable material led to the creation of stunning glass artwork!
This glass type is suitable for being blown like the glassmaking masters do and modeled in an incandescent state and capable of maintaining the same chromatic characteristics even as a finished product.
By joining this Murano, Burano and Torcello islands day trip, you’ll get the chance to visit the most beautiful islands of the lagoon and watch how the Murano glass is made too!
Libreria Acqua Alta
A more recent discovery by tourists from all over, the bookshop Acqua Alta was mainly frequented by locals.
It’s located in Calle Lunga Santa Maria Formosa and what makes this bookshop such a unique one is that books are stored inside gondolas and kayaks! The tiny store is overlooking a canal and when there’s high tide Venice is subject to flooding.
If you’re visiting it, walk around the extremely narrow corridors made of second-hand piles of books and large prints and take a picture from the book staircase!
The Venetian Ghetto is the oldest in history and it exists since around the year 1000 a.D. when the first Jewish people established to Venice in this area of the city.
The ghetto is located in the Cannaregio neighbourhood and it’s where Jews were forced to live by Venice’s government from the year 1516.
Today there’s still a community of Jews living, working and attending ceremonies in the synagogues of the ghetto. Most of the shops and restaurants of the Venetian ghetto are owned by Jewish people.
What is Venice Known For? FAQ Guide
Below are some questions people ask when it comes to visiting Venice.
What is Venice Known For?
Gondolas rides, prestigious museums and colourful islands are some of the iconic Venetian things we mentioned in this article.
This should have given you an idea of what Venice is known for all over the world and helped you to understand why it’s worth visiting it!
We shared some curious stories and facts about each symbol of Venice that (I hope) will make you want to buy that flight ticket to get to Venice.
Also, don’t forget that these are just 13 things and there’s a lot more to find out about Venice that will make you want to never leave!
See my guide on things to do in Venice for more ideas on what to do here.
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